When I decided to create my bold predictions back in March my goal was to actually be, well, bold. They are called bold predictions for a reason after all. Once the article was posted there were a lot of comments about my predictions both good and bad and in fact, I had the pleasure of someone calling me the Stephen A. Smith of Fangraphs. I have to admit, it did make me giggle out loud and caused my wife to look at me like a crazy person. I wanted to push the boundaries and create conversation while also supporting my takes and it looks like I accomplished that.
Now let’s look back on these predictions see what we got wrong and right as well as the lessons we learned!
1) Zach Eflin is the Matthew Boyd of 2020.
What I meant by this comparison, back in 2019 Matt Boyd had a fantastic first-half breakout, stumbled in the second half, and still left people excited due to the increase in K%. Plenty of people pegged Matthew Boyd as a fantastic “sleeper” and he only disappointed in 2020 with a 6.71 ERA.
Eflin had a nice little breakout campaign in 2020 where he pitched to the tune of a 3.97 ERA, 3.39 FIP, and 3.50 SIERA. Most notably his strikeout rate rose from 18.3% in 2019 to 28.6% in 2020. I essentially state that his arsenal was suspect and something we couldn’t quite trust. Elfin finished 2021 with 105.2 innings pitched (injury) a 4.17 ERA and a 22.4% strikeout rate. According to Razzball’s player rater, he was worth $-4.9 and only hurt your team.
2) Aaron Civale is the number two pitcher in Cleveland.
Let’s look at the 2021 stats for Cleveland’s pitcher’s.
Now let’s look at their 2021 dollar values:
I liked this prediction in the first place because I was a little suspect of Plesac’s just because of the super small sample we had of him. I won’t lie I liked the skill set but clearly most of us were wrong. I also thought Civale would fix his sinker location issue and truly break out but that didn’t quite happen either. The wins gave him a big edge here and while this is considered a win I definitely had luck on my side with this one.
3) The Miami Marlins win the NL East.
Yea this one didn’t turn out so hot. I figured maybe with their pitching they could sneak in a bunch of wins leaning on that but it certainly wasn’t the case. The NL East was easily the worst division in the league but the Marlins still finished 22 games out of first. A clear loss here.
4) Trevor Bauer is not a top 20 pitcher in 2021.
This likely wouldn’t have been correct but due to off-the-field issues, it ended up coming true. We will give me half a point.
5) The Toronto Blue Jays have a top-five bullpen.
In my prediction, I mainly pointed out Kirby Yates, Jordan Romano, and Rafael Dolis. Yates ended up not even seeing the field due to injury, Romano became the clear cut closer, and Dolis had a horrific season. But does that mean their bullpen still wasn’t top five?
Some arms did pop up to help out the Blue Jays like Tim Mayza and Adam Cimber but this prediction still fell short. Their bullpen ranked 15th in ERA, 13th in K-BB%, 25th in WAR, and 9th in WHIP. In other words they weren’t even close to being a top five bullpen. On a good note, they only had 18 blown saves, the second-fewest in the league.
6) Yusei Kikuchi is a top 30 starter.
Kikuchi started the season off strong, in the first half he pitched 98.1 innings with a 3.48 ERA, and a 1.09 WHIP. My thinking process behind this prediction was his upside. His first-half numbers truly showed his potential, the increase in velocity and addition of the cutter seemed to help Kikuchi make big strides in 2020.
The second half was a completely different story though as he clearly hit a wall and struggled with the long grueling season. His fastball velocity went from being 96/95 MPH to 94/93 MPH in the second half. This certainly brings into question his durability and one would have to think the Seattle Mariners limit him next season.
7) Tyler Glasnow has over a four ERA for the second season in a row.
This is a big loss here. I wrote an article on here about Tyler Glasnow and how the two-pitch mix just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I knew he was adding the slider but adding a new pitch doesn’t always work or at least work right away. Unfortunately, Glasnow had to get Tommy John surgery and we won’t be seeing much of him anytime soon. He finished 2021 with 88 innings pitched, a 2.66 ERA, and a 0.93 WHIP.
8) Mike Minor has a better season than Triston McKenzie.
Coming into 2021, Minor’s fastball velocity was back up and he seemed prime to accumulate a ton of innings. After only a handful of starts, his velocity quickly dipped back down and it lead to a lackluster season as he pitched his way to a 5.05 ERA.
Triston McKenzie seemed to struggle with his fastball velocity in his first MLB stint. In his first few starts, his velocity clocked around 95 MPH and it eventually dipped to just 92 MPH a few starts later. That was a major worry for me and it held true in 2021 as well. His fastball velocity was all over the place, he had a four-start span where his velocity was near 93 MPH. In that span, he had a 1.44 ERA, 1.41 FIP, and 27.3 K-BB%. In his last 3 starts it dipped to 91.9 MPH and in that span, he had an 11.81 ERA, 10.11 FIP, and 1.8 K-BB%.
Mike Minor was going roughly 70 picks later than Triston McKenzie according to 2021 ADP. According to the Razzball player rater Mckenzie finished as the 333rd ranked player with a $-2.8 value. Minor finished as the 315th ranked player with a $-2.2 value. Neither really helped and both disappointed but Minor was indeed more valuable.
9) Alec Mills becomes the SP1 for the Chicago Cubs.
This one, to me, was the boldest of all of my predictions. I figured Mills would outproduce Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, and Trevor Williams easily but the real challenge was surpassing one of the most consistent pitchers in recent history in Kyle Hendricks.
Kyle Hendricks certainly took a surprising step back and all we needed was Alec Mills to pitch halfway decent to make this prediction come true but that didn’t happen. He started the season in AAA and eventually got the call but finished with just 119 innings pitched and a 5.07 ERA.
10) The Royals make the playoffs.
I was semi-correct on this prediction, well the half right on my reasoning. I really like their offense with Merrifield, Benintendi, Perez, and Mondesi. But I also thought they had a talented pitching staff. Oof.
“Their pitching staff has some talent to it as well. Danny Duffy can be serviceable as long as he stays healthy. Brad Keller was great last season and is able to take on a big workload. The addition of Mike Minor gives them a veteran presence that is much needed. His velocity is back this spring and he could easily be the SP1 they needed. Brady Singer made strides towards the end of last year by featuring his slider more. Kris Bubic definitely needs some work but has shined at times. They even have Jakob Junis who has a great slider and is working on a new pitch. A lot has to go right here but the talent is there and the solid base of Keller and Minor can be big for them.”
Tough one there for you, Michael. The Royals finished with just 74 wins and came nowhere near making the playoffs. Maybe next year Royals fans! Likely not though.
Cal Quantrill came over to the Cleveland Guardians (should have been the Spiders) in a trade with the Padres that involved pitcher Mike Clevinger. Quantrill didn’t have much success in San Diego and Cleveland decided to use him in a relief role for 2020. After spending the first two months of 2021 in the bullpen Cal Quantrill finally got the call to join the Cleveland rotation. In 2021 he finished with 149.2 innings, appeared in 40 games, and pitch 22 games as a starter. As a starter, he produced a 3.12 ERA, 12.9 K-BB%, and 1.15 WHIP.
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With only one week left of the season, this will be my last Throwing Heat article! I decided for the last installment to dive into two players on a deeper level and what you can expect for them next season. I really enjoyed this weekly piece and I hope it was useful to you all. We will likely bring this article back next season but in the meantime, the wonderful Fangraphs staff and I will certainly be writing throughout the offseason. I hope most of you won your leagues and I hope us Fangraphs writers helped you do so!
Baseball is happening! I decided for the entire season to run a weekly article on pitchers who have been “heating up.” I will dive into what it could mean for the pitcher and what you should do with them. This should be a captivating concept because it will be pitchers of all levels, anywhere from aces to pitchers you would have never drafted. That’s what it’s all about, catching players as they improve and acting on it before anyone else can realize. Welcome to “Throwing Heat!”